Chinese students on a study tour to the United Kingdom gather at the gate of King's College, Cambridge University.Tan Xi / For China Daily
A growing number of families are sending children on study tours in foreign countries, as Zhao Xinying reports.
Since September, when her daughter enrolled in primary school, Amy Chang has been researching study tours overseas.
The Beijing resident had often considered sending the girl on a weeklong tour of foreign campuses, but had never taken any action, believing her daughter to be too young to deal with any problems she might encounter during a trip.
"She is now turning 7 and has been learning English for four years. I believe she could take care of herself and communicate with people effectively during a week overseas," Chang said.
A growing number of parents are thinking the same way. A report published recently by online travel agency Ctrip shows that at least 800,000 overseas study tours were booked for Chinese children during the summer vacation, a 70 percent rise from the same period last year.
Each tour cost an average of 25,000 yuan ($3,770) per person, and most were booked by middle-class families in large cities for pre-high school children, according to the report. About 13 percent were booked for children ages 3 to 6, while those ages 7 to 12 accounted for 31 percent.
"Because the kids learn things while travelling, many parents regard study tours as a good way of providing education through entertainment, which they believe will broaden their child's horizons and improve their language and communication skills," said Zhang Jie, director of the study tour department at Ctrip.
While the United States and the United Kingdom have long dominated the list of popular destinations, countries in Africa, South America and Southeast Asia have been visited more frequently in recent years.
Zhang Chao, general manager of a study tour agency in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, said a typical overseas tour lasts one to two weeks and consists of visits to prestigious schools and well-known scenic spots.
He believes tours should supplement and expand what the students learn in class, and how they learn. For example, when the agency takes students to a museum overseas, it doesn't employ tour guides.
"Instead, we ask the kids to conduct their own research and explore the museum on their own, and then we ask them to introduce the area to each other. In this way, we help them to make full use of the tour to learn, and to improve their language skills," he said.
Chang plans to send her daughter to the US for her first study tour, because the country has excellent primary schools where her daughter will be able to communicate in English and learn about the thoughts and lifestyles of foreign children of her own age.
"A trip like this might inspire her and could help her development," she said.
Although a host of travel agencies and private educational institutions provide tours, Chang is considering a trip organized by her daughter's school, either during the upcoming winter vacation or next year's summer vacation.
"Compared with travel agencies or private organizations, I have more trust in the school's ability to ensure the children's safety and strike a good balance between study and travel," she said. "The cost - about 30,000 to 40,000 yuan - is reasonable, and definitely within my budget."